Email Marketing – An Effective Strategy is a Teeter Totter

by James on January 28, 2010

Email marketing is often overlooked by businesses looking for effective marketing tactics, especially with all the noise in the business press about Social Media. It shouldn’t be. Email marketing can be an important sales channel and has the added benefit, when done well, of being a branding tool. That’s right, email marketing can be a branding tool.

It’s easy. Just think about teeter totters.


When your customer’s give you permission to speak to them, permission becomes the fulcrum of an effective email strategy. Like a fulcrum, permission has tremendous power.

Asking for permission to communicate with them is the first step to having a relationship with your customer. But keep in mind, it’s a commercial relationship so, when they give you permission to send them emails, there is an implied covenant that value, their permission, is being exchanged for value, your information.

Don’t be afraid to ask for confirmation. This will cause some breakage, i.e., you will lose some volume, but the customers who opt in using a two-step approach are much more likely to stay engaged and to purchase.

Its a good idea to renew their permission at least annually. You can also send a reminder to addresses that haven’t opened your emails in X months. Ask if they are still interested in receiving emails from you. Suggest they fill in a form telling you what they would like to see in your emails.

Ask for permission with humility and don’t take it for granted. Be sure what you send them is valuable from their perspective as well as yours.


If Permission is the teeter totter’s fulcrum then Segmentation is sitting on one end.

Track your customers’ interests based on how they interact with the emails you send them. What subject lines caused them to open the email? What links did they click on? What products did the explore or purchase?

Use the patterns you see to segment your email file because past behavior is predictive of future behavior.


Relevance sits on the other end of the teeter totter.

Customize subject lines to feature your customer’s name and their favorite product category.

Use the segmentation to customize the content your customers receive; ensure that email content is tightly aligned to interests. The first product or article they see should be about something they recently interacted with or purchased.

Identify what else interests them and feature these products, these secondary interests, in the sidebar. Track their interactions.

Don’t waste their time. Don’t squander the value your customers gave you when they gave you permission to speak to them. Deliver content that’s relevant and your click through rates will jump. Even more important, your conversion rates will lift as well.

Hip Shots

  • The teeter totter email marketing strategy may appear simple but you would be surprised how many companies don’t bother. If you take the time to balance the teeter totter you will gain competitive advantage and reap rewards.
  • There’s an added benefit to the teeter totter strategy for email marketing.
  • By taking the trouble to deliver content that interests your customers, you will be using this inexpensive marketing channel to not only generate sales efficiently, you will be building your brand because your customers will receive something of value that goes beyond the transaction, beyond the functional benefits of your product or service. This will surprise and delight them, which builds relationship equity and provides competitive insulation. How cool is that; a sales effort that’s also brand building.

The inspiration for this post came from my friend and collegue Ed Henrich. Ed blogs about email at This Week in Etail.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Walter January 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Email marketing is very effective when used properly. As what you’ve said, value is important. Most of us hate unsolicited mails that forces things we don’t need, we must remember this every time we send emails. We have to consider what they want or what will interest them.

This is a very sound advice you have shared here. :-)

James January 28, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Thank you Walter. If we keep track of the important things, like value, then the details take care of themselves.

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